Charting the Success of the Eagles’ Passing Attack

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Yesterday I threw some numbers at you: pass/run ratio statistics for the whole NFL and breakdowns by Super Bowl teams. We learned some interesting things about the nature of NFL offenses these days, but it's time to look back toward the hometown team.

Let's start by examining the pass/run ratio under Andy Reid, since that's the start of basically every conversation about the Eagles' longtime coach. How does his play calling really compare to the rest of the league?

Eagles v. NFL Pass Percentage 1999 to 2009

Reid certainly likes to throw the ball, even more than most in today's pass heavy NFL. However, one interesting note from this simple graph is that throwing the ball more or less really doesn't correlate with better Eagles' seasons.

By that I mean that the Eagles have been very good overall the last decade, but you can't tell which were good years simply by looking at the pass/run ratio. 2002 and 2003 were NFC Championship years, but Reid actually managed an offense that threw fewer passes than average. Since then, however, every year the Eagles have been significantly above the league average — with varying results.

So the Eagles have thrown a lot. Not a big surprise to anyone. But how accurate was the Reid-McNabb offense?

Eagles v. NFL Completion Percentage 1999-2009

Here's something interesting. The one year the Eagles broke through to the Super Bowl was also the only year the team completion percentage was above average. In addition, the two worst years in the Reid era — 1999 and 2005 — correspond with the worst completion rates.

There's no real correlation between completion percentage and Super Bowl appearances when you look back over 30 years, but Eagles fans will see if a bump there from a more accurate quarterback will have any impact.

Net Yards per Pass Attempt was the only statistic we found yesterday to be consistent with Super Bowl appearances. Few below-average teams make it that far. So how did the Eagles do?

Eagles v. NFL Net Yards per Pass Attempt 1999 to 2009

This is an interesting graph to look at when you're asking what the Super Bowl window was with Donovan McNabb. The average Super Bowl team had approximately 6.75 Net Yards per Pass Attempt. The Eagles only reached that threshold three times in the last decade: the Super Bowl season of 2004, the Jeff Garcia campaign of 2006, and... last year? Whatever you think about the 2009 Eagles team, the last year of Donovan McNabb, you have to admit that the offense, at least, was Super Bowl caliber.

In three games last season Kevin Kolb posted a mark of 7.2 Net Yards per Pass Attempt. If he can continue that success the offense will remain potent enough to make a deep run in the playoffs. Unfortunately, there are no such guarantees in his first full season, plus the factors that derailed the 2009 Eagles — namely inconsistency and injuries — may continue to haunt this year's team.

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